Hunting Badger

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Three men raid the gambling casino run by the Ute nation and then disappear into the maze of canyons on the Utah-Arizona border. When the FBI, with its helicopters and high-tech equipment, focuses on a wounded deputy sheriff as a possible suspect, Navajo Tribal Police Sergeant Jim Chee and his longtime colleague, retired Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn, launch an investigation of their own. Chee sees a dangerous flaw in the federal theory; Leaphorn sees intriguing connections to the exploits of a legendary Ute bandit-hero. And together, they find themselves caught up in the most perplexing -- and deadly -- criminal manhunt of their lives.
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When Tony Hillerman looks back at seventy-six years spent getting from hardtimes farm boy to bestselling author, he sees lots of evidence that Providence was poking him along. For example, when an absentminded Army clerk left him off the hospital ship taking the wounded home from France, the mishap put him on a collision course with a curing ceremony held for two Navajo Marines, thereby providing the grist for a writing career that now sees his books published in sixteen languages around the world and often on bestseller lists. Or, for example, when his agent told him his first novel was so bad that it would hurt both of their reputations, he nonetheless sent it to an editor, and that editor happened to like the Navajo stuff.

In this wry and whimsical memoir, Hillerman offers frequent backward glances at where he found ideas for plots of his books and the characters that inhabit them. He takes us with him to death row, where he interviews a man about to die in the gas chamber and details how this murderer became Colton Wolf in one of his novels. He relates how flushing a solitary heron from a sandbar caused him to convert Joe Leaphorn from husband to widower, and how his self-confessed bias against the social elite solved the key plot problem in A Thief of Time.

No child abuse stories here: The worst Hillerman can recall is being sent off to first grade (in a boarding school for Indian girls) clad in cute blue coveralls instead of the manly overalls his farm-boy peers all wore. Instead we get a good-natured trip through hard times in college; an infantry career in which he "rose twice to Private First Class" and also won a Silver Star, Bronze Star, and Purple Heart; and, afterward, work as a truck driver, chain dragger, journalist, professor, and "doer of undignified deeds" for two university presidents. All this is colored by a love affair (now in its fifty-fourth year) with Marie, which involved raising six children, most of them adopted. Using the gifts of a talented novelist and reporter, seventy-six-year-old Tony Hillerman draws a brilliant portrait not just of his life but of the world around him.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Harper Collins
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Published on
Mar 17, 2009
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Pages
304
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ISBN
9780061745720
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Language
English
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Genres
Fiction / Cultural Heritage
Fiction / Mystery & Detective / Police Procedural
Fiction / Native American & Aboriginal
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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To Officer Bernadette Manuelito, the man curled up on the truck seat was just another drunk—which got Bernie in trouble for mishandling a crime scene—which got Sergeant Jim Chee in trouble with the FBI—which drew Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn out of retirement and back into the old "Golden Calf" homicide, a case he had hoped to forget.

Nothing had seemed complicated about that earlier one. A con game had gone sour. A swindler had tried to sell wealthy old Wiley Denton the location of one of the West's multitude of legendary lost gold mines. Denton had shot the swindler, called the police, confessed the homicide, and done his short prison time. No mystery there.

Except why did the rich man's bride vanish? The cynics said she was part of the swindle plot. She'd fled when it failed. But, alas, old Joe Leaphorn was a romantic. He believed in love, and thus the Golden Calf case still troubled him. Now, papers found in this new homicide case connect the victim to Denton and to the mythical Golden Calf Mine. The first Golden Calf victim had been there just hours before Denton killed him. And while Denton was killing him, four children trespassing among the rows of empty bunkers in the long-abandoned Wingate Ordnance Depot called in an odd report to the police. They had heard, in the wind wailing around the old buildings, what sounded like music and the cries of a woman.

Bernie Manuelito uses her knowledge of Navajo country, its tribal traditions, and her friendship with a famous old medicine man to unravel the first knot of this puzzle, with Jim Chee putting aside his distaste of the FBI to help her. But the questions raised by this second Golden Calf murder aren't answered until Leaphorn solves the puzzle left by the first one and discovers what the young trespassers heard in the wailing wind.

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